Arts Award Artsmark South East Bridge Artsmark | An interview with…Milton Keynes Arts Centre

Photo 1Our Artsmark team recently met with Thomas Eke, Learning and Participation Programmer for Milton Keynes Arts Centre, to discuss the organisation’s work with schools. During this academic year, Artswork will be hosting five Artsmark Development Days at the Centre.

What’s been your favourite work you’ve done with schools in Milton Keynes?

It would have to be our current project, Mark Making, which has been led by artist Izzy Parker as part of our 12-month programme, Common Ground. The Common Ground project has successfully brought together artists with our local community and has included schools, colleges and older learners.

For Mark Making, 15 students from Stephenson Academy have been working with Izzy, a trained Designer and Jewellery Maker, to create signet rings. Our relationship came about from us working with the students previously to attain their Discover Arts Award. We consulted with students to better understand what they would like to make and they were clear that they wanted to make the biggest, chunkiest, heaviest, “most bling pieces of jewellery”, so that’s what we went for! To date, all 15 students have made at least two signet rings and have just started sessions in the woodworking studio to create an installation to house their works.

We are also running a project called the Inside Out Kitchen which pairs four contemporary craft makers with students from across the city, ranging from primary all the way to sixth form, to explore metal work, wood work, weaving and natural textile dying processes. These students have been working with contemporary craft makers to create the contents of a mobile kitchen, which will be used to create meals, using ingredients gathered from our surrounding greens spaces. For example, they have created a barbeque and they are now going to move on to create the tables and chairs, bowls, spoons, wall hangings and blankets in other workshops.

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What’s your earliest arts memory?

Drawing. I was always drawing cars and cities, cities and cars. And Lego, then bringing it all together to make dream towns and houses!

How important is it for children to get involved in the arts at a young age?

It is absolutely crucial. Children are inherently creative and playful, and as the act of making is explored less and less in more formal learning settings, all areas of the educational and creative sector need to fully support young people in their creative growth.

How can local Artsmark schools get involved with Milton Keynes Arts Centre?

We work with schools through every strand of our programme: from professional development days with sixth form and college students, through to primary and secondary schools receiving artist-led workshops in print, design, and ceramic through our new Schools Art Menu.

Our projects are developed though a proactive and collaborative relationship with local schools and colleges, focusing on our joint areas of knowledge. For instance, we wanted to address ways of empowering the students of Stephenson Academy – this was achieved this by supporting them in their autonomous use of workshop tools, promoting trust in young people who might ordinarily not receive this kind of support in their educational and personal development outside of school hours.

See Milton Keynes Arts Centre’s upcoming programme of events and workshops at:

To find out more about how your school can connect with arts and cultural organisations local to you, sign up to use our free Connecting with Culture database:

You can find out more about how to get involved with Artsmark at: or by contacting our Artsmark team via: [email protected]